If You Build It…

This winter marks the 11th season of women’s varsity ice hockey at Norwich University. After its humble beginnings in 1998 as a club team, the program quickly built a legacy as a perennial powerhouse in NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey, making eight NCAA Tournament appearances and six NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearances, as well as winning seven league tournament titles. And in 2011, just four years into its status as a varsity program, the women brought home a national championship trophy. It was a meteoric rise to the top.

Norwich women’s hockey founder, Liz Kennedy ’01, was a rook when she began galvanizing support for a club team. “I knew women’s hockey was going to start to be a big thing with it debuting in the Nagano Olympics in 1998,” Kennedy said. “I had a meeting with President Schneider and I told him that I love Norwich but I can’t stay if I can’t play hockey. He ended up giving me $1,000 to start a women’s club team.”

Kennedy, now a senior development director for Norwich, was determined to make every penny count. “I went home at winter break and gathered up all the old equipment I could find,” she said. “We practiced at an outdoor rink in Barre the first year while Kreitzberg Arena was being built. We were smelly with the old equipment, but we took the ice through sheer will.”

The inaugural club team had a few experienced players, but mainly comprised figure skaters and rugby players. Former equipment manager Dana Bean was the first coach; Northfield’s Kenny Goslant joined the coaching staff shortly thereafter.

Women’s hockey got its big break in 2005, along with three other sports, when Norwich identified a need to step up its athletic offerings for women. The discussion was brought before the Board of Trustees, and Trustee Nancy Archuleta (2004–09) made an on-the-spot commitment to kick-start the new programs. The result was the genesis of women’s lacrosse and volleyball, while the women’s rugby and hockey club programs began transitioning to varsity status. Volleyball debuted in fall 2006, followed by women’s lacrosse in spring 2007. Varsity women’s rugby followed in fall 2007, and finally, varsity women’s ice hockey debuted in October 2007.

Head coach Mark Bolding ’95 has emerged as one of the top women’s collegiate hockey coaches in the country, winning three American Hockey Coaches Association National Coach of the Year awards from 2010 to 2012, while leading the Cadets to the national championship game in each season. In 2016–17, Bolding became the fourth-fastest coach to reach 200 wins in NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey history.

“We’ve been fortunate to receive a lot of support from the university over the years with the building of Doyle Hall, which gave us our own locker room for the first time,” Bolding said. “We’ve also been able to have success recruiting some of the nation’s top young female student-athletes by having a full-time assistant coach position, all occupied by three Norwich grads: first Keith Maurice ’02, then Sophie Leclerc ’10, and now Mollie Fitzpatrick ’12. None of that would have been possible without Nancy Archuleta’s support.”

Kennedy reflects proudly on the successes of Norwich women’s ice hockey.

“To me the experience of starting the program is the Norwich experience in a nutshell,” Kennedy said. “If you see a goal, and are willing to put in the time and effort, you can achieve it. It’s a good lesson in overcoming obstacles and is the truest form of the Norwich experience. Women’s hockey is my legacy, and to know that someone else came in after me and kept it going—to the extent that they are competing for a national championship every year—is amazing.”

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